How does the Bible help with parenting? As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (referred to as Mormons or LDS) we studied God’s word to guide us in raising a family. We found many scriptures that provided insights, but we wanted a plan, from beginning to end. It was then– by looking at the broader historical picture of how the Lord has dealt with man from the beginning of time– that a pattern of parenting emerged. Notice that as accountability is increased and mastered, greater independence is a natural consequence.
Early childhood: Once Adam and Eve left the presence of God, they were independent but naive and bound to follow God’s instructions. When Adam and Eve’s children strayed away from the direction of God, they were warned and punished. They would not yield to guidance, and were lost (in the flood) forever. You can’t “flood out” your kids—but you can rely on natural consequences, make sure they know you mean business and follow through with an appropriate punishment if they don’t obey.
Childhood: With more independence, the children of Israel received the Ten Commandments to help them govern themselves. They were accountable for their actions. It is at this point, at the age of eight, that Mormon children are baptized, because they can then recognize right from wrong and understand the process of repentance. It is essential that parents establish house rules and that children understand the consequences of disobedience. This phase is essential for the enjoyment of the teen years! Note that the Children of Israel were taught in the wilderness through very clear symbolism. When they tried to gather manna on the Sabbath, there was none; when they tried to gather more than their share, it rotted.
Early teen years: From the time the Ten Commandments were given until the coming of Christ, the law didn’t change. The rules were set and known, and rewards for righteousness were given as well as punishments for disobedience. As teens show consistent obedience, they are rewarded with greater independence, which also increases their ability to govern themselves.
Later teen years to young adult: At this point of Biblical history, Christ came and established a higher law with greater expectations (Matthew 5:17). As teens mature into young adults, you hopefully have established a trusting relationship that will help them be ready to date, drive responsibly, assist in family duties and finally leave home prepared to live successfully on their own.
Taking a look at the big picture of parenting is easier with this biblical outline to follow. To reiterate:
Infancy—Parents learn to sacrifice their own wants (and sometimes needs, like sleep) for the sake of their helpless child who depends on them for every care.
Early childhood —Parents must help little children to control themselves by teaching them what is and isn’t okay. Many parents today believe that “ignoring” the behavior will somehow cause it to stop. That’s like thinking that ignoring a broken pipe will stop the flooded basement. Action needs to be taken—bad behavior must be dealt with. Otherwise, it’s like the inmates running the asylum. This is the time to engage them in family chores and provide physical, emotional and spiritual structure.
Childhood—Parents must teach children obedience and provide age-appropriate consequences for disobedience. If this is not taught early, power struggles and bad behavior will only increase. Don’t wait—thinking it will get easier. It won’t. Kids need to know who is steering the ship and if you don’t do it now, you will have mutiny on your hands. At this age, kids not only are capable, but must take responsibility—not only for their actions but for their physical maintenance. They should be required to help with household chores and keep their own space tidy, bed made, and clothes taken care of. The more they can do for themselves, the greater confidence they gain in themselves.
From my experience, the teen years can be fulfilling and the most fun time you can have with your kids. When they have familiar boundaries they thrive. They help, they converse, and they laugh a lot. I still smile at our kids’ response when they acted out of character. We would accuse them of acting like “typical teenagers” and they would act insulted, but they got the point. We always had a good laugh because their behavior was generally very pleasant.
Early teens—When hormones are raging, change is tough to deal with. If your teens know your house rules without any question, it will be easier for them to make better decisions. That’s not to say they won’t try to bend the rules, but they will know what to expect and be more likely to accept the consequences of their misdeeds.
Later teen years to young adult—This is a glorious, traumatic and rewarding time for parents if the kids are responsible. Trust builds as they consistently show that they will follow what they have been taught. Though it’s nerve wracking, it’s time to ease them out of the house by increasing their responsibility and accountability. It’s hard on parents to help their kids out of the “nest,” but it’s essential for their success. So, you teach them to drive (I don’t think I’ve yet recovered), you let them date (and worry until they get home), you help them plan their future ( you want to go WHERE???) and you send them out to explore the world, hopeful that you have done all you can to provide “roots and wings.”